How Hard Should it Be? Adventure Card Game Power Curves

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Now that Wrath of the Righteous is finally in players' hands, I'd like to talk with you all about the thematic and mechanical motivations behind the different difficulty of each Adventure Path. In order to do this, I'm going to talk about each set while trying not to spoil anything, just in case some of you haven't started one of the sets.

Let's talk about what it's like to work on a game that's always changing and yet always somewhat the same. We explicitly design each PACG Adventure Path to be compatible with all of the others. This means that once you know how to play the game, you can easily jump into any set... and if you really like a particular character from a particular set, you can bring it into a different AP. Our default example of this is Lirianne, the iconic Gunslinger character in Skull & Shackles. If you decide that you'd really like to play Lirianne in Rise of the Runelords, Wrath of the Righteous, or in our upcoming release, Mummy's Mask, you can do so, and she'll work just fine. For Lirianne, we recommend that you also bring along some of the firearms from S&S, but that's up to you—she works either way.

At the same time, we also spend a lot of time, effort, and brainpower to make each Aventure Path a new and interesting experience. We use a wide variety of techniques to do this, including new characters, new mechanics, and of course, a brand-new story with each one. One important technique we use that might not be obvious to everyone is the power curve. This is a technical term we use to roughly mean, "How hard is it to get through the adventure at different points along the path?" If you've ever studied writing and film—and especially if you've ever GM'd a long campaign—you've gone through at least some of this process yourself. How strong are the characters at the start? When things get tough (as they usually do), when does it happen, and how often? Do the characters have the resources they need to protect themselves? Do they use them wisely, or do they have to scramble to get where they need to be? As the plot unfolds, are they ahead of the game, behind the eight ball, or both... and do they know it?

In our first AP, Rise of the Runelords, the adventurers start out in the small coastal city of Sandpoint. As the adventure begins, the town is attacked! A few minutes later, the typical adventuring party is moving from location to location, finding goblins with torches and kicking them in their oh-so-many teeth.

Mechanically speaking, the characters start off in a position of relative strength, but also ignorance. Unless they are risky or get unlucky, the typical character can go toe-to-toe with the typical goblin and expect to come out on top most of the time, especially if there's some help available. In the story, though, it's unclear why these torch-toting goblins would trouble the town. Figuring out that secret is the step that takes Rise of the Runelords from a one-shot "defend the town" session to an epic campaign against an ancient evil of the first order. As the story progresses, the characters grow in both knowledge and power, facing and overcoming increasingly dangerous threats on their way (both figuratively and literally) to the top.

In Rise of the Runelords, the character power progression is more or less linear over time, while the difficulty of challenges is a curve that dips and then rises. Character power starts very slightly behind the power curve in Adventure B. Then the difficulty curve dips beneath the power curve through the middle of the Adventure Path, rising over time until, very near the end, the two lines approach.

In story terms, this represents the change in difficulty as...

Rise of the Runelords spoilers
... you discover the stone giants behind the ogres, the rune giants behind the stone giants, and eventually the ancient Azlanti behind it all.

In Skull & Shackles, the doughty adventurers are press-ganged into service on a vessel most piratical. You start off by learning to handle life at sea, including learning to crew a vessel (and learning to hate geese) and learning how to get along with the rest of the crew, be they friendly or otherwise.

Here the characters start the campaign off-kilter—they're quickly tossed into a situation that's unlike what they're used to facing. Whether you played Rise of the Runelords or not, you probably recognized at some gut level that Valeros could fight his way free of his captors, but he would be alone on a boat in the middle of an unfamiliar sea. From both a narrative and a mechanical perspective, Skull & Shackles was a bit more difficult than Rise of the Runelords because we forced you to learn to do new things. You could still focus on being the strongest fighter, awesomest bard, or stabbiest rogue, but unless you could also handle yourself underwater, navigate a ship, and manage a crew, you were very likely to run into serious trouble. In game terms, we forced you to spread out your resources. Most characters can't afford to dedicate every card and feat to a single, focused goal.

In Skull & Shackles, the difficulty is much closer to linear—the difficulty increases mostly steadily over time—but the character power progression follows a parabolic curve. In the very beginning scenarios, character power is somewhat above the difficulty line, but it dips down below the line quickly in AD1, and then rises above the line for much of the AP. Near the end, the character power curve levels out, and it comes very close to the difficulty line by the end.

In story terms, this...

Skull & Shackles spoilers
... represents the narrative progression of the characters as they start out as "fish out of water" and then come to master their new environment, as they escape from captivity, gain their own ship, then make their mark in the Shackles as part of the Pirate Council. Eventually, they discover an invasion plot and move from freebooting around the islands to confronting the Chelish fleet and taking the fight directly to the Hurricane King.

In our current Adventure Path, Wrath of the Righteous, you're in the city of Kenabres to celebrate a famous past battle against the demonic invasion into the Worldwound. Just when the festivities are about to officially start, something very bad happens. This time, though, it's not goblins with torches or pirates with whips. It's demons... lots of demons. Again, I don't want to spoil too much, but the title of the first scenario in Adventure 1 is "The Fall of Kenabres." (I can assure you that it's not the follow-up to "The Summer of Kenabres.")

This is our third set, and we have once again changed things while keeping the game the same. In this case, the characters start out "behind the curve," both in knowledge and in raw power level. The demons you face right from the get-go are tougher, more numerous, and just meaner than you've seen before. On the other hand, you have a bunch of new tools to even the score. In particular, Wrath of the Righteous adds both cohorts and mythic power. Cohorts are a new card type in this Adventure Path, representing important, named characters that will help you in your struggles against the demonic hordes.

Cohorts are bonus cards given to the party at the start of scenarios. They make you a little bit tougher, and in the right hands, they have some potent powers. Additionally, we've brought you mythic path cards, representing the unlocked potential for mythic power possessed by each of the characters in this set. Paul talked about these already, but the way they're added to the AP is important here: mythic paths are unlocked by a specific event that happens in the story. When you're playing Wrath of the Righteous, you get a chance to play a number of scenarios before you pick a mythic path card, which helps with your understanding of the card and the narrative arc of the story. On the one hand, you now have some experience with the character, and you can make a better choice of which path will be the most fun. On the other hand, it lets us level up the characters in a new way. This helps us create the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed and in trouble at the start of the AP, but it then gives you a dramatic moment where you start climbing out of the pit, bringing yourself up to the level of—and even potentially ahead of—the mass of terrible, evil banes we've assembled for you.

In Wrath of the Righteous, both the character power level and the difficulties they face are curved. Difficulty starts high, but dips quickly below the character power level before rising again. At the same time, character power level starts off relatively linear, rising as the characters recover their footing.

In story terms...

Wrath of the Righteous spoilers
... the characters start off behind the curve as the initial troubles with the Worldwound are overbearing. You don't start with the feeling that you can solve the problems of the Worldwound so much as you hope that you can withstand them. As those that survive the initial onslaught unlock their mythic potential, the character power curve catches up and exceeds the difficulty curve. These things are tricky, though, and only time (and more Adventure Deck releases!) will reveal what the future holds for your valiant crusaders!

The use of the d20 in mythic paths is the final piece in the puzzle here. While it increases the top end of your checks, it doesn't help with everything. It also doesn't change the bottom end at all. As many discovered while demoing and playing WotR at the recent Origins Game Fair, d20s roll 1s just like every other die. In a set like Skull & Shackles, the d20 would be "too swingy" to use often, but in Wrath of the Righteous, it's a great fit. You each have within you the potential to do truly amazing things, but so do your opponents. The results are far from certain... which is kinda what we were going for.

Since we released Wrath of the Righteous, we've heard from some people that the start of the Adventure Path— especially the scenarios in Adventure B—are tougher than they expected. Hopefully, you now have a better idea what we were trying to accomplish with this set and how did it. On the other hand, if you are finding that the start of WotR is so hard that you're not having enough fun, there are a number of options available.

First and foremost, remember that the B Adventure is optional for the Adventure Path. It's recommended, but it's not required. If you would prefer to start with Adventure Deck 1: The Worldwound Incursion, that's perfectly fine. Also, if you'd like to play a little bit of AD1 and then go back and complete the B Adventure, you should feel free to do so. In a more extreme variation, you might even choose to finish all of AD1 before completing the B scenarios, but be aware that you will be significantly stronger at that point. In the end, any way that you find to have fun is a great way to play.

Chad Brown
Adventure Card Game Lead Developer

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Just cleared AD0 earlier today, and some thoughts. Keep in mind that I'm running 6p. This gets long, so spoiler tagged.

Spoiler:

1. Pay attention to the locations. Yes, B-4 6p has the Abattoir; personally, I'm not sure why ONLY 6p has to deal with +6, but that's separate. What I actually mean is that there are locations that are relatively pleasant (eg, having no banes except the special, or only one monster/barrier and none of the other.) Pounding those first might net you extra boons / HP, and get some locations closed early.

With particularly unpleasant locations, look for hacks. For example, Alain can reveal Donohan at the end of his turn to move; so he needn't sit on the Molten Pool or Torture Chamber, taking fire / extra damage.

2. Find ways to mitigate the worst of what's coming down. A Magic Shield helps most people outright avoid the before and after effects of the Fiendish Tree, as long as you can hande the check itself. Heavy-armour users can use a Helm instead. A Vulture can turn a point of damage into a card in someone else's hand; this can be the Vulture itself, reducing the impact of those bane-spreader barriers.

3. Try to find ways to scout. Even if you don't have Adowyn in your group, knowledge is power. Make the effort to obtain Potion of Night Vision. Pound locations like Dark Forest or Cathedral of Clydwell, trying to exploit their location scouting powers. Give Shardra books to read (and hopefully recharge.) Harsk with a Ring of Climbing can scout after evading (because of the shuffle.)

4. My victories (and they weren't always victories) have come down to the wire each time - and often with two characters being lucky they don't have to worry about a sixth turn.

In conclusion there, it's hard, yes; but it's doable in 6p. Experiment with strategies, and don't be so cavalier about Protection from Stuff-Happens, because Stuff will Happen.

----

That said, there are a couple notes.

1. I agree with Frencois, that B-4 having the Abattoir only for 6p is suspect; the lesson it teaches is that 6p is contra-indicated by WotR's game mechanics. Though B-5 uses it in the first slot, it doesn't change this; and +6 this early is enough to push many banes into "impossible without throwing boons."

The lesson gets reinforced with AD2's army barriers, where 6p must make each check, while any other group size can skip one or more; this means that 6p has some constraints about its group makeup. For example, if you only have one of (Adowyn, Crowe, Harsk, Imrijka,) you're making a raw d4 against 12... or worse if you have Crowe and no Ranged characters. A 5p group gets around this problem by simply IGNORING the unassigned check.

2. I haven't done 1-2, but the opening "bury 1d4+1 from topdeck" has had me more worried than even the non-closing from Elven Entanglement. At least it's in 1 though; but I'm not sure how 6p can manage it given the time pressure, based on how low I've seen deck sizes dip WITHOUT removing up to a third of it before turn one. I'll be finding out, though, as my run is about to hit this scenario. Maybe I can find boon locations...

3. While I avoided the nastiest part of the ghost minotaur, "you didn't find certain boons before now, and now you lose turns and get a new location, ha ha," it's still a bit nasty. This isn't just not having them in hand (the uncertainty of avoiding Karsos until you are ready,) but of not even having them in your deck (the despair of avoiding Karsos because you can NEVER be ready.)

4. B-4 has no actual quest reward; even S&S started you with something every scenario, though it could potentially be taken from you; but B-4 starts you with nothing, and there's a good chance that you'll WANT to end with nothing rather than put banes back into play.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Thanks Sandslice. I feel a bit less lonely.
Still have to pass B4 though. Hopefully before my all group turns back to play Shadows of Brimstone. :-)

Paizo Employee Contributor

We have only 3 players, so I don't have some of the 6-player problems that others have, but I'm very pleased to announce that we completed scenario B-2 on our sixth attempt last night. Glad to finally have it behind us, and a bit demoralized that we may have trouble with scenario B-4 as well--but we'll see.

Our decks have been tuned pretty well despite the repeated failures, though, so we have that going for us.


Ron Lundeen wrote:

We have only 3 players, so I don't have some of the 6-player problems that others have, but I'm very pleased to announce that we completed scenario B-2 on our sixth attempt last night. Glad to finally have it behind us, and a bit demoralized that we may have trouble with scenario B-4 as well--but we'll see.

Our decks have been tuned pretty well despite the repeated failures, though, so we have that going for us.

Or perhaps because of them. :) Depending on your group and looting, it might not even be bad.

@Frencois:
Kyra, Crowe, Alain, Balazar, Shardra and Enora.
or
Kyra, Crowe, Alain, Balazar, Shardra and Adowyn.

I'm not all that familiar with Crowe, though my impression is that he's basically just a martial until you can power feat his Arcane. (Raw d4 + 2d6 is not as relevant as it seems.) Alain is a martial, and Balazar is essentially a martial (though he can scroll Arcane Attack spells for 1d10+2d4+2 which isn't too bad.) Adowyn becomes a fourth martial if you pick her over Enora...

...and being overloaded on martials is the worst thing in B-4. I'd swap one of them for either Seoni or Imrijka, who can both get Magic to combat "on demand" without needing specific cards.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

pH unbalanced wrote:
Well, as I said above, the biggest problem for us was lack of any Cure spells, despite having half our party being Divine casters (Imrijka and Adowyn). I can see Adowyn being without, but surely Imrijka should have had one.

The pre-gen character sheet we got for Imrijka didn't have Cure Light Wounds at 1st or 2nd level, so we opted for something different for her. Certainly, you should feel free to swap out a basic card for another basic card if it makes the game more fun!

(sorry about the delay in replying; I was out of town until this morning).

Thanks for playing!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

various people wrote:
...much hate for Viper's Strike...

I'm going to have to look at this one a little closer, because it seems like the negative opinion is relatively widespread, but it performed reasonably well in our testing. Is there a forum thread someone can suggest where I can get up to speed on the thoughts on this spell quickly? (I apologize for not doing my own legwork first; I'm catching up from several days out of touch).

Thanks!


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Here's an example re: Viper Strike. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2scm1?Lets-flip-the-Wrath-difficulty-question-a round

Seems to based more on theory than play experience.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Sandslice wrote:
...B-4 having the Abattoir only for 6p is suspect...

We've always been open about the fact that the tougher effects are generally weighted towards larger groups (which have way more potential synergy) and towards the end of the adventures (when the characters are potentially much more refined and advanced), so this shouldn't be a surprise.

This is not to say that the specific combination of party, scenario, villain, henchmen, and locations is or is not too hard -- just that you should generally expect the nastier stuff to come in with more players, and later in the adventure.

Also: I won't break the spoiler tag, but I don't expect that you'll find 1-4 especially difficult. Maybe you haven't seen the third paragraph on that scenario yet?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Sandslice wrote:


I'm not all that familiar with Crowe, though my impression is that he's basically just a martial until you can power feat his Arcane. (Raw d4 + 2d6 is not as relevant as it seems.)

Don't forget that Crowe can "rage" on his Attack spells, and gets to recharge the card rather than burying it. It's not something you'll want to do every fight, of course, but banishing a basic spell + recharging a second card for 1d10+3d4 or 1d10+1d4+2d6 is pretty potent -- roughly as good or better than Balazar in the same circumstances.

Thanks for playing!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

borodino21 wrote:

Here's an example re: Viper Strike. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2scm1?Lets-flip-the-Wrath-difficulty-question-a round

Seems to based more on theory than play experience.

Thanks, I'll take a look at that. I do much prefer feedback based on experience, as the playtesters can surely tell you. :-) If anyone happens to find one, send it my way or post it here. Thanks!

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
borodino21 wrote:

Here's an example re: Viper Strike. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2scm1?Lets-flip-the-Wrath-difficulty-question-a round

Seems to based more on theory than play experience.

I think that's probably the case - there are a lot of enemies that aren't immune to poison in the set, but it doesn't take much awareness of the ones that are to realize all of the other damage options have fewer problems to overcome. Intellectually I realize many, many monsters are as vulnerable to poison as anything else, but my gut says, "demons and undead are poison-immune, this is an AP about fighting demons, DON'T GET POISON STUFF" and wins out. (I say that despite playing Kyra, who actually gets pretty good mileage out of Viper Strike, since she can use it to fuel her own innate ability to deal with demons and undead.)


Chad Brown wrote:
Sandslice wrote:
...B-4 having the Abattoir only for 6p is suspect...

We've always been open about the fact that the tougher effects are generally weighted towards larger groups (which have way more potential synergy) and towards the end of the adventures (when the characters are potentially much more refined and advanced), so this shouldn't be a surprise.

This is not to say that the specific combination of party, scenario, villain, henchmen, and locations is or is not too hard -- just that you should generally expect the nastier stuff to come in with more players, and later in the adventure.

Also: I won't break the spoiler tag, but I don't expect that you'll find 1-4 especially difficult. Maybe you haven't seen the third paragraph on that scenario yet?

If you're talking about 1-2, I have a clear report on it in my thread; that paragraph helped most characters and surprisingly hurt Seoni a bit due to it disrupting her best combat-readiness option. I haven't reached 1-4 yet. :) With Abattoir in B-4, the surprise was more that Abattoir already has group-size scaling, so dropping it only on 6p seemed more like a punish than, say, if it were in the fifth (3p) slot. But I certainly see your point on that.

With Crowe, forgot about his rage. >.<


Chad Brown wrote:
borodino21 wrote:

Here's an example re: Viper Strike. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2scm1?Lets-flip-the-Wrath-difficulty-question-a round

Seems to based more on theory than play experience.

Thanks, I'll take a look at that. I do much prefer feedback based on experience, as the playtesters can surely tell you. :-) If anyone happens to find one, send it my way or post it here. Thanks!

Thanks for taking a look at it Chad. Here are my thoughts on the spell.

In the past, the poison trait has come with a trade off. The advantage is that spells and weapons with the poison trait let you roll more/larger dice than you otherwise would, but in exchange for the hitting power you run the risk that certain creatures will be immune to the spell.

In Wrath, the down side is magnified; a lot of the core enemies are immune poison. But the real issue is that the spell lacks an upside. The spell doesn't allow for higher dice than other basic attack spells.

For arcane casters, the spell provides no benefit at all. Divine casters get a slight advantage, the lower recharge rate, but the downside is so severe and the advantage so slight that most divine casters will never consider the spell. The one exception is Kyra,whose power, as Shisumo points out, mitigates the negative effects of the poison trait.

I think that if you did something to up the base power of the spell, Viper Strike becomes far more interesting. Are you willing to use a better attack spell at the risk that it won't work on some creatures? As it stands, the spell just doesn't seem viable for anyone but Kyra.

Adventure Card Game Designer

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We put Viper Strike in this set to make you want to replace it with something you acquire. FYI, that will probably not be the case in Mummy's Mask.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The same is more or less true of Lightning Touch, since the demons are all immune to electricity as well, right?


Mike Selinker wrote:
We put Viper Strike in this set to make you want to replace it with something you acquire. FYI, that will probably not be the case in Mummy's Mask.

Mission accomplished!

But seriously, unless you use starting decks (or are Kyra) don't you just pretend this card doesn't exist rather than replacing it?


Not necessarily. Roughly 1/3 of non-boss monsters are immune to it, and the bane-spreaders (Arboreal and Horde) drop immunes on you (though 1's bane-spreader, Crazed Cultists, spreads human cultists instead.)

Viper Strike isn't useless; it's just that compared to the other six "elemental" traits (Cold, Force, Fire, Acid, Mental, and Electric,) Poison is clearly the most limited - exploiting no weaknesses and giving away immunity more often than the others.

If it's the tool you have, of course you'll use it when possible; but you'll be looking to replace it when you can also.


Sandslice wrote:

Not necessarily. Roughly 1/3 of non-boss monsters are immune to it, and the bane-spreaders (Arboreal and Horde) drop immunes on you (though 1's bane-spreader, Crazed Cultists, spreads human cultists instead.)

Viper Strike isn't useless; it's just that compared to the other six "elemental" traits (Cold, Force, Fire, Acid, Mental, and Electric,) Poison is clearly the most limited - exploiting no weaknesses and giving away immunity more often than the others.

If it's the tool you have, of course you'll use it when possible; but you'll be looking to replace it when you can also.

Sure, if its the tool you have. But why would you have it? and if it is "clearly the most limited" why have it in the set at all? Why not modify the card to give you some incitement to choose to include it in starting decks other than "well, this is the only attack spell left in the box."

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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A wise man* once said "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

*:
I cannot guarantee that Wisdom was not actually his dump stat.


For the same reason that Leather and Padded armours are in the armour deck, or items like the Ring of Climbing that just jam your hand hoping you'll evade something so that it'll actually do something but be in your hand. Not every item has to be "equal, all things considered."


Not every item needs to be useful, but I firmly believe every starting item should have a niche. And considering that they already established a niche for poison spells, I would have loved to see them use it.

Both padded armor and ring of climbing have a niche. I would agree with you on Leather Armor.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Chad Brown wrote:
Sandslice wrote:
...B-4 having the Abattoir only for 6p is suspect...

We've always been open about the fact that the tougher effects are generally weighted towards larger groups (which have way more potential synergy) and towards the end of the adventures (when the characters are potentially much more refined and advanced), so this shouldn't be a surprise.

This is not to say that the specific combination of party, scenario, villain, henchmen, and locations is or is not too hard -- just that you should generally expect the nastier stuff to come in with more players, and later in the adventure.

Also: I won't break the spoiler tag, but I don't expect that you'll find 1-4 especially difficult. Maybe you haven't seen the third paragraph on that scenario yet?

Problem is B4 is far from being "towards the end of the adventures".

I feel this scenario's basis are good... it just happens way too early in the AP.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Chad Brown wrote:
Sandslice wrote:


I'm not all that familiar with Crowe, though my impression is that he's basically just a martial until you can power feat his Arcane. (Raw d4 + 2d6 is not as relevant as it seems.)

Don't forget that Crowe can "rage" on his Attack spells, and gets to recharge the card rather than burying it. It's not something you'll want to do every fight, of course, but banishing a basic spell + recharging a second card for 1d10+3d4 or 1d10+1d4+2d6 is pretty potent -- roughly as good or better than Balazar in the same circumstances.

Thanks for playing!

Yes but it doesn't give the Magic trait to Crowe... so doesn't help for B4.

Altogether I agree with all your comments, but it still feels B4 isn't well tuned for 6p.


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Sandslice wrote:
... I'd swap one of them for either Seoni or Imrijka, who can both get Magic to combat "on demand" without needing specific cards.

Works if you play alone with 6 characters, but we are 7 real players. We don't want to change our respective character each scenario to optimize success. You should not have to do that.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
I would love to hear a discussion of your thoughts group size at some point.

This is a great idea. I've commented about it briefly above, but I'll see if I can get some room in the blog schedule to talk about this specifically in more detail. Thanks!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Mechalibur wrote:
...I feel that the difficulty of Wrath is also a result of some generally underwhelming boons...

This is actually a really deep issue, and one that I will probably talk about in a separate, future blog post. The short (ish) answer is that we really didn't correctly predict how much people would play the B scenarios in Rise of the Runelords, and it had a big impact on the game (probably bigger than most people realize, since it's the first AP.

Frankly, people replayed RotR-B and RotR-1 a lot more than we had expected. This was an amazing problem to have, and we certainly weren't unhappy about it over all, but it did mean that people were going into the earlier scenarios in the adventure with decks that were more upgraded and more refined than we had expected. This was one of the factors (just one, but a real one) that made the start of RotR feel a little too easy for some players. In Skull & Shackles, we adjusted the B adventure, both increasing the number of scenarios from 3 to 5, and also making the scenarios later in S&S-B a little tougher, while keeping to the intentional power curve changes I discussed in the blog post.

I'm getting a little long here, so let me jump to the end, and I'll dig into more detail in a future post. The this-time-for-sure short answer is "We want to give you cards that you can use, but you want to replace. When you play/replay the early scenarios a bunch, then you get more chances to replace cards." One consequence of planning for people to play and especially replay early scenarios a lot is that we need to create a bigger range of desirability of those starting cards.

It's possible that we've gone too far in WotR -- it's a tough balancing act in the best of cases, and WotR already has a steeper power curve (being the mythic-epic-goes-to-11 set), so it's entirely possible that we over-corrected on some of the starting boons. Like my advice on playing WotR-B and WotR-1, I can only apologize and assure you that there is a method to our madness -- and you will absolutely catch up. This does suggest an alternative, for those hardcore players that don't like the idea of skipping B until after 1 -- if you find an adventure-B scenario that you like, you could always replay it a couple times to get some more deck upgrades before heading deeper into the adventure.

Thanks for playing!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

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Sandslice wrote:
If you're talking about 1-2

Yep, I either typo'ed or thinko'ed that one.

Sandsclice wrote:
that paragraph helped most characters and surprisingly hurt Seoni a bit due to it disrupting her best combat-readiness option.

Interesting! I know that we tested that scenario with Seoni, and I don't remember that problem, but it totally makes sense to me.

Sandslice wrote:
With Crowe, forgot about his rage. >.<

If you read his backstory, you'll find that that is excellent roleplaying. :-)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Frencois wrote:

Problem is B4 is far from being "towards the end of the adventures".

I feel this scenario's basis are good... it just happens way too early in the AP.

Because the terminology might be confusing to someone who doesn't live

inside it at work every day, this is a reasonable thing to think, but it's not actually correct. B4 is the next to last scenario in the adventure; B5 is the last.

I said Adventure instead of Adventure Path intentionally. We increase the difficulty at the end of each "story step" for a large number of reasons, including pacing, narrative, and gameplay. Of course, we also generally increase the difficulty of later Adventures over earlier Adventures, as part of the difficulty/power curve design that I discussed in the post.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Frencois wrote:
Yes but it doesn't give the Magic trait to Crowe... so doesn't help for B4.

I might be jumping in after too big a gap, but I'm confused -- if Crowe uses an Attack spell, it'll add its traits to his check (because it says "For your combat check..."), and it will have the Magic trait (and thus can defeat Karsos).

Frencois wrote:
Altogether I agree with all your comments, but it still feels B4 isn't well tuned for 6p.

Yeah, you clearly had a bad experience, and you aren't alone. I'm certainly not trying to deny that, and we're still looking at the situation to see if we need to take any further action. In that post, I was just trying to address the specific point about the nasty location appearing at 6 players -- not trying to say that the total over-all effect is working correctly.

Thanks again for playing, and for your feedback!


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I'm glad you're posting a lot more again, Chad! You weren't posting as much in the S&S era it seemed.

When you mention replay, do you mean in the context of boon farming, or in the context of the scenario was failed and they needed to do it again?


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Chad Brown wrote:

Because the terminology might be confusing to someone who doesn't live

inside it at work every day, this is a reasonable thing to think, but it's not actually correct. B4 is the next to last scenario in the adventure; B5 is the last.

The problem with B4 is that it tends to become unstuck in time. Therefore, making B5 our last best hope for victory.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Mogloth wrote:
Chad Brown wrote:

Because the terminology might be confusing to someone who doesn't live

inside it at work every day, this is a reasonable thing to think, but it's not actually correct. B4 is the next to last scenario in the adventure; B5 is the last.

The problem with B4 is that it tends to become unstuck in time. Therefore, making B5 our last best hope for victory.

... and in average, although we are 6 players, only 1 or 2 cards out of the 15*6+cohorts in our hands are actually "upgraded" after each failed attempt. Mostly because the chances that the guy that has the skill to acquire the boon is the one encountering it is 1 or 2 out of 6.

This said as usual I would like to send an enormous thanks to Chad for all the work done not only on the game but also on the communication around it. Tuning such a game is a nightmare and your doing a great great job. Now as you cleverly pointed out, we are here for feedbacks so don't blame us, it's because we love the game... :-)


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Chad Brown wrote:
Frencois wrote:

Problem is B4 is far from being "towards the end of the adventures".

I feel this scenario's basis are good... it just happens way too early in the AP.

Because the terminology might be confusing to someone who doesn't live

inside it at work every day, this is a reasonable thing to think, but it's not actually correct. B4 is the next to last scenario in the adventure; B5 is the last.

I said Adventure instead of Adventure Path intentionally. We increase the difficulty at the end of each "story step" for a large number of reasons, including pacing, narrative, and gameplay. Of course, we also generally increase the difficulty of later Adventures over earlier Adventures, as part of the difficulty/power curve design that I discussed in the post.

I stand corrected with good reason. This said I will rephrase if you allow me, because I think the point is still valid :

"I feel B4 scenario's basis are good... it just happens way too early in the AP."


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Thanks, Chad, for all the insight.

I have to admit, it's a little funny that you designed underwhelming boons in order to account for players grinding the Base Adventures - which turned out to be the stuff of nightmares, that no one will take a second look at.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

I've always figured the reason everyone replayed the B adventures in Runelords was to get the sweet, sweet feat. I can't be the only player that plays with the attitude that "anything that gives my character a permanent boost, no matter how small, must be gotten because someday I might need it." If the RotR B adventure had only had "draw a random boon from the box" type awards I bet many fewer people would have replayed it.

With me, it's never been "I must upgrade my deck before AD1" and it's always been "Gimme the B adventure feat!" Feat are what makes your character feel "higher level" as opposed to just having "better stuff."


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We never replayed a scenario that we won in Runelords. To design for that kind of boon-grubbing seems wrong, to me. I mean if you think that your group *must* have the Deathbane Light Crossbow, just pull it out of the box and play your game, which is a different game than the one designed for everyone else.

What we did do in Runelords, because of the wait for the next Adventure, was play some of the fan scenarios. The rewards, I think, were not OP but maybe our decks got tuned a little better, don't know. We haven't had time to play any fan scenarios with monthly Adventures plus more failed scenarios.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
ryric wrote:
I've always figured the reason everyone replayed the B adventures in Runelords was to get the sweet, sweet feat.

But you only get the feat reward once...replaying won't do anything. Unless you're not playing by the rules, I guess, and if you do that, just give yourself the feat...


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In the spirit of providing feedback, I wanted to second a few opinions raised above.

First, Chad, thank you for posting your candid thoughts. It's refreshing to see a designer openly discuss the rationale behind controversial decisions and admit the possibility that their execution may not have been perfect. And overall, the team behind this game has done an amazing job, and I'm eternally grateful that you made this game exist.

Second, I agree strongly with Longshot that weakening boons to thwart grinders seems like backward thinking. Replaying a scenario is thematically senseless: Jubrayl Vhiski & Friends are already dead. Really, it is no different than just taking whatever boons you want from the box. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with changing the rules to make the game more fun for yourself, whether that means making the game easier or harder. This is a cooperative game and the overriding rule is always "do what's most fun for you and your group."

But then what I don't understand is why the designers should diminish the game experience for normal players by accommodating a certain subset of players who defy the spirit of the game. It is the players who play abnormally who should suffer the consequences of violating the rules and/or spirit of the game, not the players who don't.

It's like in the old shooters, where you could type in a cheat to turn on God Mode. Sure, you can become invulnerable and have infinite ammo, but if the game gets boring after 5 minutes, that's your problem. The designers' job is to make the game fun for the players who play the game normally, not the ones who turn on God Mode.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Calthaer wrote:
ryric wrote:
I've always figured the reason everyone replayed the B adventures in Runelords was to get the sweet, sweet feat.
But you only get the feat reward once...replaying won't do anything. Unless you're not playing by the rules, I guess, and if you do that, just give yourself the feat...

I recall the developers saying that they presumed players would play the B adventure once, then on subsequent campaigns they would skip it to get to the real AP. They didn't expect people to start every campaign with B. I'm not talking about replaying it with the same group over and over, but replaying it ever at all when starting a new group.

If I start a new campaign, I feel like I shouldn't skip B because I want that feat. If all B awarded was random boon draws I'd skip it on replays.


Aha! Ryric, your use of the word "replaying" was different than Chad's. Chad was talking about playing the scenarios more than once with the same characters. You're talking about playing the scenarios each time you start a new campaign. There is of course nothing wrong with doing the latter.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Technically, the rules don't actually provide a way to replay a scenario you've successfully completed.

Adventure Card Game Designer

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Mogloth wrote:

The problem with B4 is that it tends to become unstuck in time. Therefore, making B5 our last best hope for victory.

I didn't want this to get overlooked; Mogloth has won the thread, everyone. Y'all can go home.

Pathfinder ACG Developer

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It was our last best hope for Peace, but with the Fall of Kenabres it became something greater.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Tanis O'Connor wrote:
Mogloth wrote:

The problem with B4 is that it tends to become unstuck in time. Therefore, making B5 our last best hope for victory.

I didn't want this to get overlooked; Mogloth has won the thread, everyone. Y'all can go home.

Woo hoo!

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I had always thought that the reason the B scenarios for RotR got so much replay was because of the lack of other play options. With so many other scenarios existing now, I wouldn't think that would happen nearly as much.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Borissimo wrote:
I agree strongly with Longshot that weakening boons to thwart grinders seems like backward thinking.

This came up a few places, so please don't think I'm picking on you - yours was just the post at hand when I was ready to reply. :-)

In general, there seems to be some sentiment that Viper Strike is designed to be less potent than it should be; that is incorrect. Viper Strike follows exactly the normal progression for the spells of it's type - casting skill + 2d4 and a type of damage. Compared to, say, Fireblade, Viper Strike gets a little extra boost, in that it is easier to acquire and recharge. Sure, you don't care about the CtA very much, but the check to recharge is a real boon -- so says Ezren's "Add 2 to your checks to recharge" feat, anyway.

When I'm talking about planning for a bit more replay, I am not talking even a little bit about designing cards that are intentionally weaker than other cards; what I am talking about is how we allocate the cards that go into a set, and that go into a character's starting deck list. Specifically, if we expect that you'll have a large number of opportunities to upgrade a card, then we're likely allocate the starting deck lists differently than we would if we expected you to have a very few chances to upgrade cards. Because this is inherently a group process, larger groups have a generaly easier time at these upgrades, especially in earlier adventures (why? Because in the earliest adventures, almost any sort of extra resource expenditure will siginificantly increase the odds of acquiring the boon, whereas in later adventures, the gaps are large enough that it's far more common for a boon to just be out of reach. Put another way: many B boons can be acquired 2d4, and 3d4 gives good odds, while in AD6, 5d4 is still worse than a craps-shoot on the shinies).

Or, to approach it from a completely different angle: does anyone want to see a reprint of Guidance?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

pH unbalanced wrote:
I had always thought that the reason the B scenarios for RotR got so much replay was because of the lack of other play options. With so many other scenarios existing now, I wouldn't think that would happen nearly as much.

Yeah, that's our hope, also. It's hard for us to predict ahead of time how such behavior will turn out, though. Remember that when we were designing WotR we didn't really know how (well) the new release schedule would work, nor how (well) the PFSACG OP seasons would work, nor how much people would replay earlier APs with new characters, nor how (well) custom scenarios would work in the era of DriveThruCards.

Put another way: we guessed that there would be less crazypants insane replaying of B and AD1 than happened with RotR, but we didn't know how much less.


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Chad Brown wrote:

...

Put another way: we guessed that there would be less crazypants insane replaying of B and AD1 than happened with RotR, but we didn't know how much less.

Hum I wonder if it's a joke ? Took us 3 tries to pass B2 and 7 tries to pass B4. And be sure we were so frustrated we didn't want that many. Seems that you guys made sure that there would be an insane lot of replaying.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I confess. I'm one of those dirty dirty re-players.

Though ours was a different situation...

In Runelords, my group has a total of 7 players, though the most we ever play with is 6. Only 2 of us have been there for every game. So rather than have incredibly weak characters for the adventure we were on, or just hand out feats, we would re-play the scenario, with people who had played before only getting upgrades (not scenario rewards).

While this may have made the game easier, it has still been fun for casual gamers, and it makes sure that we don't have too large of a power differential between the various characters.

Still, we have finally reached the point where we're proceeding forward regardless of who shows up now that we all have our Role Cards. Obviously a very sporadic group (we only play when we don't have enough for our RPG game).

My S&S group at the FLGS started the same, but we stopped re-play much sooner and finished the game about 6 weeks ago.

When we failed so miserably at our first scenario of Wrath (Enora killed, ran out of time) I saw the situation on the boards, and decided to mix the AD1 cards in right away. We will still give the B scenarios another shot, but hopefully some of the worst nastiness will be diluted.

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